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The (Practical) Importance of Individuality

Updated: Mar 10

A face of a sad man

Being an individual means that many of the possibilities in your life are either boosted or limited by your unique individuality. Each individual possesses different skills, attributes, potentials, strengths, and weaknesses. In order to get along in life's many currents, it is very helpful to know oneself as an individual, from thinking about what to do in one's leisure to the larger duty of survival and functionality.

If we ignore our individual traits, advantages, and disadvantages, society at large would not be able to function optimally. This can be compared to pieces of a puzzle: each piece has its own optimal place in the larger picture. Once each piece is placed in a location that best serves its distinct shape, the general picture will be more fulfilled and coherent, rather than just a mess of unidentified pieces, aimlessly scattered all over the place.

Those who will fail fitting into the bigger picture will become outsiders. If they want to ever be a part of society, unlike those who naturally fit in, they will have to prove their relevance to the world. They will have to gain power. That is because some people, like my late grandfather, were and are too eccentric to be part of general society. No matter how much they will try, their individuality is too extreme for people to handle. Many of them are too mentally ill. Others intimidate by their sheer intellect, unintentionally or otherwise. Others are even too emotional for people to handle.

Due to some people's dysfunctional individuality, the only way they can restore their worth in the eyes of general society is by having power. And in some cases the more powerful are too influential to be disregarded, hence the social importance of power.

Some people... are born to fail. The odds are against them by the very fact that they exist in a certain way that's too weird for people to handle. And as you know we need to cooperate to survive. As long as you are among physical civilization you will always need to cooperate with others, even if in a very distant way like paying bills and taxes. And you, of course, need to work for that. Working is not only for you to survive but for your worth to be proven. Hence why work prestige exists. Unless you achieve true love, you will always compete to maintain your conditional worth in the eyes of others.

Therefore, individuality is something that is crucial for both the individual and for the society they are in. On a personal level, the awareness of one's individuality can help them live a better and more fulfilling life. Knowing themselves better can help them plan ahead in accordance to who they really are. One may find out that they know themselves so well that it could affect the decisions they make.

On a collective level, it can help boost the overall productivity of society, if every self-aware individual is positioned in whatever role is best for them, under the circumstances of realism, that is. For the optimal functioning of society, people are best to find positions where they excel in. Otherwise, they may over qualify their positions, which is a loss of potential, or under qualify them, which could harm society's functioning by their specific incompetence.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) seems to be well aware of the importance of individuality, as it rates different candidates with a "quality index" according to the individual distinctions of each candidate. If I am not mistaken, those who are ranked very high are usually considered fit for a combatant role, and those who score poorly on the "profile" scale are either given a safe, non-combatant role, or are dismissed from compulsory service, even though it is compulsory for anyone else whose scale makes them fit for duty.

Now, if the IDF were to recruit anyone who has reached 18 years of age, without taking notice of their individual distinctions, and categorize each recruit to whatever is needed at the moment, the functionality and efficiency of the army would be very poor. This is because if we are to ignore the individual traits of each soldier, the troops might find themselves in a position that doesn't fit their best way of service, thus lowering the efficiency of the military. There is a degree of functionality to individuality even in social frameworks that are more collectivist in nature.

This is why individuality, or rather, the awareness of individuality, is crucial at least on the practical level of getting things done as optimally as possible, and of living a more satisfactory life that suits one's strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Would you make a gardener do a mechanic's job? Would you tell a mechanic to tend to your garden just because it needs taking care of? A vast majority of people hate their jobs because they don't have any spirit in them. They are just there for the pay, not to actualize their unique potentials.

One's individuality is often composed of two components: the part which is beyond our control, and the part that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to include within us. The first part is obvious, and is caused by the inevitable dominance of genetics and socialization, while the latter part is left for us to either discover, receive, or create for ourselves. Because of this, although many people are similar to each other, many others are not.

This is not necessarily a paradox, because the very essence of similarity requires difference, since otherwise, it wouldn't be a similarity but a perfect match.

Much of who we are and what will become of us depends upon our available resources and the level of prosperity we either gain or inherit. It's why it is important to generate and preserve wealth for years to come.

However, it is unwise to blame the entirety of our shortcomings on our origins and local circumstance. Those who want to actualize themselves optimally should therefore venture beyond the "prison" of their local environment, whether they do it physically by traveling the land, or use solitude to shoo away the external distractions that may be in their way of individual success.

There is a self that exists beyond the external world, AKA society. Use the potential within to transform your life by trying to become the best version of yourself. That way, surviving in society could be more bearable. How come? That potential within you can be utilized for your own interest, in exchange for helping others. Creating such mutual partnerships, such as syndicates, where every person or body brings something to the table, based on their merit, can further the most basic interest that is the overall survival of everyone involved. This is why there is a relationship between merit and survival.

I spent most of my life in a poor neighborhood; a neighborhood that was stigmatized with high crime rates, low levels of education, and a rather naïve populace. However, while people in my age in that neighborhood became addicted to drugs, violence, became unemployed, and were far from reaching high school graduation, I did whatever I could to disconnect and live within my own "world".

A "world" which has led me to become the productive writer I am today. If it weren't for my desire to venture beyond the limits of my socio economic condition, my life today would be vastly different. I am unaware if there were fellow intellectuals back there, although I may be wrong. Either way, I dislike wasting too much time on socializing not only because I know I'm a-social but also because I'm trying to build my success, originated by my individual merits. It's why it is lonely at the top. Hence why for social people, being gifted can be a burden.

For me it is a blessing. Because beyond your available resources and opportunities in your life, individuality is an important sector of your life to discover and use along with the hand you were dealt with. That is in order to reach one of the original purposes of philosophical thought: to reach a life that has been well lived, or as Nietzsche defined it, a life so good you would want to live it over and over again, for all eternity, at least theoratically.

It is all in the name of both being your ideal self and of being able to bring food to the table while doing just that. No compromises theoratically needed when you can use your individuality in ways make people deem you and your work as relevant.

The Sad Truth About Individuality

A sad truth about individuality is that some may have to make bigger sacrifices than others in order to exercise their optimal potential as distinct, prospering selves. That is especially true for truth seekers. These sacrifices may include their original families, especially when they live within a more-traditional community.

Some of these families may expel their children just for being too different beyond the frames of their society's acceptance. Some may be rejected even in setting that are more. Accepting, like safe spaces.

Thus, individuality is imperative to success, but can also be a burden to some. It is a burden that one has to pay for if they are so determined to preserve it within them, whether they may be non-straight, for example, or do not want to marry when they are demanded to.

You can say that individuality as is useful to an extant that is demanded by others. It is also harmful to others to the extant that is determined by their potential to reject you, based on it. You might find that showing your true colors can keep people away from you. You might have to mask if you wish some people to endure you.

The Choice of Individuality

All in all, distinct individuality is often a choice we have to make for the sake of our lives and for the sake of where they will be heading. Compromise may be needed because one may lack the power to act without it in a collective setting, and it is one of the reasons unfairness exists. You may also realize that some celebrities have privilages to act more uniquely simply because they are celebrities.

It is a choice between personal pursuits, or to succumb to the comfort of conformity. What can be certain, however, at least in many places around the world, more than ever before, is that being different, whether by birth or by choice, is something that one should not be ashamed for. Why? Because we are allowed to be ourselves and who we want to be as long as we do not disrupt the law. We are allowed to be unique and people should not be afraid of truly being themselves when they are allowed to and when being unmasked will not hinder their plans.

Hence why family and lovers should accept each other as they truly are, unlike professionals who may require and be required to stay calm.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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